As a kid, I always thought it was funny that you didn’t get caught up in the hoopla that came with Mother’s Day. I guess I was thinking, It’s a celebration! Who wouldn’t be excited? Probably someone, as you would say, that is “a mother every day.” I knew you were a mom every day, but I didn’t really know what that meant until I became a mother. There is no off switch. You don’t go to bed and wake up the next day starting from scratch. Even after children grow up, or face an untimely death, you are still a mom, mama, or mommy.
You set a great example. So great that I honestly thought I knew what it meant to be a parent before becoming one. But parenting was much more than what I saw, much more than what I thought I knew. Experience is a wonderful teacher, and having children made it possible to see the hidden side of parenting that you navigated so well.
I didn’t know how hard it must have been for you to:
Say “No.” Sometimes there just wasn’t space for wants and needs. As the sole parent constantly working to do it all it had to have gotten on your nerves to give us the pep talk with every trip to the store. “Don’t ask for anything. I’m here to get what we need. If there is anything left, then maybe we’ll get something else.” I find myself saying the same thing and laughing a little when I hear your voice come out of my mouth.
Repair broken promises. Every time we were supposed to go somewhere or looked forward to a good time with our dad, having to be the one to fix the sad faces when lo and behold he didn’t show up.
Occasionally hide how bad things were. You didn’t try to shield us from life, but you did believe children shouldn’t have to worry about adult issues. I wonder sometimes what it does to a parent to hear their children concerned about life. What type of added stress is brought on by the want to prove that things will get better when you’re not sure yourself.
Manage work and home. Sick children. Limited leave. Overtime. The challenge to parent is real. The challenge to not lose your job is also real. It’s a balancing act that rarely seems balanced.
Constantly put yourself on the backburner. It’s just a pair of shoes or a new coat. Nope. In your mind, doing for yourself meant taking away from your kids. And it’s a way of thinking that you held onto. So much so that it became easier to do for others than to do for yourself. A selfless act indeed. Now that we’re older you don’t have to be an after-thought, and even though you can put yourself first, I wonder at what cost did you ignore your needs in order to give to us.
There is a lot about parenting I did not know, and that I’m still learning. And with every passing day, I get that much closer to understanding you. I didn’t get motherhood then, but I get it now. Yes, it’s nice to be acknowledged, but you knew, like every mother, that after the cards fade, and flowers wilt, and commercials end, and candy goes on sale, motherhood is still there. It still continues for another 364 days.